Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nothing Fishy About This Taxation Story


I confess that I am not much of a fisherman.

I’ve often thought about it. Fishing seems like such a relaxing and stress-free pastime, and who couldn’t use a little less stress in their life? Maybe one day I will get around to actually taking it up.

This morning I was thinking about another fishing trip, one that Jesus sent Peter on. As a fisherman, I have my doubts that Peter needed to be told twice to grab his tackle box and head to the water. However, this particular fishing trip would turn out like no other. This trip would end up illustrating one of the foundational truths about Christianity, namely that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. In the same story we see both humanity and Deity interwoven in one. This trip would end up giving Peter the ultimate fish story.

It was tax time again, a time that I’m sure none of us particularly look forward to. Likewise, for the people living under Roman occupation, I’m sure that it was even less pleasant. It was bad enough that their land was being occupied, but to add insult to injury and have to pay a head tax to the occupiers, well, that just plain sucked!

One day the despised tax collector asked Peter, “Does your Master pay taxes?” Interesting question, given that only the commoners paid taxes; royalty didn’t. Did the tax collector recognize something different about Jesus? I’d like to think so, but then again, maybe he was just looking for an opportunity to trap Jesus like others had also done. When Peter later asked Jesus about it, Jesus told him that he didn’t want to offend and to just go ahead and pay the man.

It’s one thing to pay the man when you have the money; it’s quite another when you don’t. While we aren’t told, I don’t imagine that Peter had much of anything on him, much less than enough to pay Jesus’ tax and his own. And so, Jesus sends Peter fishing, and along the way, he gets a little theology lesson.

Let’s listen in to a bit of the conversation:

“Go down to My sea of Galilee, which I created. I have had one of My creatures lose a coin in the water, and My law of gravity carried it down where I had one of My fish take it into his mouth. You go fishing and I will have that fish come to your hook. You will take the fish and take the coin out of its mouth, and it will be a coin of sufficient value to pay your taxes and Mine.” 
What a human thing to pay taxes! And what a divine way of paying them! Humanity and deity in the same story. Humanity is subject to the laws of the land. Deity knows the movements of a fish in the sea, knows the whereabouts of a lost coin, regulates the power and movements of the fish. I sometimes hope that Peter had faith enough not to use any bait. That fish would have climbed the string, if necessary, to fulfill such orders as these.

Anyone want to go fishing? My Lord knows all the best fishing holes.

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